Dine with Diana: New Year’s Eve Cocktails in Batches

Last time you heard from me was just before Christmas and I was living it up with Peppermint Martinis. Now, here I am just weeks later with more cocktails up my sleeve. Honestly, it’s not my fault though.  It’s just that time of year. Really, I swear.

I thought it would be helpful to give you some cocktail recipes you can make in batches before your guests arrive for that super fab New Year’s Eve bash your hosting. Why play bartender all night, when you can enjoy your own party instead?

Below, are my two favorite recipes for batch cocktails. I’ve done this many times and it works like a charm.

How to Make Batch Cocktails Special:

  • Set out a fun drinks display table with all the cocktail glasses pre-garnished so all the guest has to do is pour the drink in the glass, and off they go.
  • Don’t go for a standard punch bowl unless you happen to have something super fun/modern. I like to use large cocktail mixing pitchers.
  • Search online for “drink dispenser” and there is one for every style and budget, making it even easier to enjoy your party.

Xo,
Diana

CHAMPAGNE PUNCH
*Thanks to FoodNetwork.comRecipe courtesy Emeril Lagasse

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 1/2 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Grand Marnier)
  • 1/2 cup Triple Sec
  • 1/2 cup cognac
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange juice
  • 2 bottles chilled dry Champagne or sparkling wine
  • Orange or lemon slices
  • Fresh strawberries, optional

Instructions

  1. Combine the lemon juice, sugar, orange liqueur, Triple Sec, cognac, and orange juice in a non-reactive bowl and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved.
  2. Add the Champagne and stir to combine.
  3. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour.
  4. Pour into a decorative bowl or pitcher.
  5. Garnish with orange or lemon slices and fresh strawberries, if desired. Serve in Champagne flutes, wine glasses, or punch cups.


BRANDY PUNCH

Ingredients

  • 2 cups brandy
  • 1 cup rum
  • 4 cups pineapple juice
  • 1 cup lemon juice
  • 1 cup simple syrup
  • 1 qt. ginger ale

Instructions

  1. Pour ingredients into the punch bowl and mix.
  2. Add the ginger ale in last to keep the fizz fresh.
  3. Also add the ice just before the guests arrive so that the punch doesn’t get watered down
  4. Garnish the edge of each old fashion glasses with lemon twists and candied ginger

Cheers! Happy holidays!

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Frugal Fun DIY: Toddler Exploring Set

I’m a crafty girl – I love glitter and rhinestones, Mod Podge and Tacky Glue, pretty papers and ribbons…. and I have so much fun sharing my love of all things creative with the kiddos in my life. And, crafting with kids has helped me see new things – kids are so fascinated with new textures, shapes, sounds, and colors. That led to the creation of our Toddler Exploring Set – a super easy DIY idea, made from totally inexpensive materials. Even if you’re not usually much of a DIY’er, you can do this. So… let’s get started!

  • You probably already have most of the supplies you’ll need – But one thing that you will need to get in advance is a set of empty water bottles. We used the mini ones – they’re easiest for tiny toddler hands. You’ll also need a good glue {I used Quick Dry Tacky Glue}, so that you can glue each bottle closed. You also might want to get a small shoe box, or cute basket, for your little one to carry their new Exploring Set around in – they love that. Now – the fun part! Read through the list and find some fun ideas to try. All of the bottles are really simple to make, and will totally delight your little one. Enjoy!

  • Sound Bottles: In the Red bottle above, I used white beans mixed with some fun red glitter – these are nice and noisy when you shake ‘em! You can also use things like rice, popcorn kernels, or jingle bells. Kids love discovering the different sounds.
  • Bubble Bottles: Fill half full of water, add a little bit of dish soap, and a squirt or two of food coloring. Your little one will love seeing a plain bottle of water turn into a bubble party when they shake it up!
  • Discovery Bottle: Fill a bottle half way with sand or rice, and add a few tiny toys too. Kids will learn that the toys are there even when they can’t see them – and will love learning how to find them again!
  • Glow Bottle: Fill a bottle with glow in the dark stickers or glow sticks. Show your kiddo how different it looks when they crawl underneath their blanket – what a surprise!
  • Silly Bottle: One of our favorites is to fill a bottle up with little Glitter Pom Poms – these are the cutest thing, and Abby loves them! They look super cute in the bottles, and have such bright and vibrant colors!
  • Snow Globe Bottles: Fill bottles with a mixture of water and glycerin, add food coloring if desired, throw in a pinch {or more, you can never have too much!} of glitter, and add some fun little toys or trees. So much fun!
  • Slow-Down Bottle: Fill a bottle 2/3 full of clear corn syrup, then add sequins, or tiny toys. As they tilt the bottle, they can relax and slow down while they watch the toys sloooowly slide to the side.
  • Nature Bottle: These ones are more temporary – grab a tiny branch off of an evergreen tree, some fall leaves, dandelion flowers, acorns – whatever is in season. Your little one will delight in getting to really look at these things up close – you’ll delight in knowing that they won’t EAT them while they have them up close!

BIG KID OPTIONS

  • Magnet Bottle: Fill a bottle with rice or sand, and add a few metallic items, like pennies, old game pieces, etc. Then – let them use a big magnet against the outside of the bottle to ‘magically’ pull those hidden items into view!
  • Guessing Bottle: Fill a bottle up with tiny pebbles – or something fun like Jelly Beans! – and have your kids guess how many are inside. Don’t glue the top on this one, since you’ll then want to dump it out, count it together, and see how close they were. Our boys love to challenge each other.

About: 

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Meagan is a super-busy super-mommy working to balance her life as a Mom’preneur! She is Owner and Creative Director of Sunshine and Sippy Cups, but the real boss in her home is her chubby cheeked toddler daughter! You can find new “Busy Mom Solutions” posted to her site daily.

For up-to-date info on sales and other Totsy fun, follow us on Twitter (@totsyfan@mytotsy) or Like us on Facebook (facebook.com/totsyfan).

Trend Alert: Sequin Skirts

With 2012 approaching soon, what better way to sparkle into the new year then with this season’s latest trend: sequin skirts! They’ve been popping up everywhere and it’s a lot easier to wear than you imagine.

Here are three ways we love to wear sequined skirts:

Honestly, you can never go wrong with a white tee. Pair it with some black pumps, bold jewelry and maybe some black tights (if it’s chilly) and you’re ready to go.

We love the knee high boots! You’re sure to stay warm when trekking from one New Year’s party to the next.

My fav! Nothing says simple and elegant like a black blazer, white tee and GOLD sequin skirt! Throw on some pumps and dance the night into the new year!

Tell us, would you wear a sequin skirt?

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How To: Make Cake Pops!

A while back we posted a question on our Facebook page asking if you would make cake pops and the response was overwhelming! Thank you for the input, Totsy fans! We’re back with a How To that will detail exactly how to make cake pops. Super simple and it will give you the chance to get creative! Fun and yummy activity to do with the kids!

You’ll Need

  • 1 box cake mix (cooks as directed on 13×9 inch cake pan)
  • wax paper
  • 1 can frosting (16 oz)
  • Candy Melt/chocolate (1 lb package)
  • Sprinkles (different variety)
  • Lollipop Sticks or skewers
  • Styrofoam board/box

Directions

  1. After baking the cake as directed, put into a large bowl and crumble with a fork.
  2. Add one container of frosting in intervals. Use a spoon to mix thoroughly.
  3. Once evenly distributed, roll the batter into balls with your hands into desired size.
  4. Insert sticks less than halfway through the cake balls and place them in the freezer so they firm up.
  5. Use a microwave or a double boiler and melt the chocolate or candy melts.
  6. Stir the melted mixture to ensure that it is melted all the way through.
  7. Dip the cake balls into the candy coating and slowly rotate until the ball is covered.
  8. Dip the cake balls into sprinkles and when finished, insert the stick right-side up into t a styrofoam board or box so that it can dry.

Enjoy!

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A Crafty Mama’s Guide to Tot Created Thank You Cards

Christmas is a great time to start toddlers on the habit of writing thank you cards. After all the excitement of Christmas, it’s also a nice, quiet, indoor activity to help unwind.

  1. First either gather up some of your toddler’s artwork (if your house is like mine, it’s all over the place!) or have them create a new set of paintings and drawings.
  2. I trim off the bottoms of my son’s paintings (that’s really the only part with paint anyway, as he can’t reach much higher on the easel!) and we write thank you letters for his presents on the back.  It’s a lot of fun to involve him in the process.
  3. He decorates the backs of the envelopes and I ask him questions and write his answers in the letters. Most of the letters follow the same format. I write a thank you and ask what Sam liked about the present, as if it were coming straight from him. Then I add “I also want to tell you…” and write his direct quotes there. Sometimes they’re about the gift or the person we’re writing to, sometimes they’re more along the lines of “I found a bug!” or “I like cupcakes!” But I like that he’s learning about writing letters and the random kid quotes are often what people enjoy reading the most.

And don’t forget to take your toddler with you to the post office to mail the letters!  Buying stamps and dropping envelopes through the mail slot are one of my son’s favorite things!

About:

I’m Amy, am a stay-at-home mom in Salt Lake City, Utah. I grew up in Midcoast Maine and am a country girl at heart. I love sharing my experiences with urban homesteading, natural family living, being an LDS mom, bee keeping, attachment parenting, raw food and whole food cooking, yoga practicing, urban chicken “farming,” unschooling and whatever else is inspiring me. I hope that Progressive Pioneer can serve to inspire, validate and encourage other women and families who are making similar choices or perhaps to stimulate curiosity in those for whom some of these ideas are new.

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Al Fresco with Autumn: Festive Winter Soup

I whipped up this homespun recipe almost a year ago today for a holiday dinner. I’m usually TERRIBLE about writing down “from-scratch” creations, but luckily my hubby loved this one so much – he gave it the official Latin finger-snap and insisted I put it in the books. For the 21+ set – we paired this dish with Champagne topped with a splash of cranberry liquor. Sub in Martinelli’s for the kids of course.

Festive Winter Soup
Time: 45 minutes
Serves: 3-4

Ingredients:

• Butternut Squash – 2 cups roasted or store-bought cubed
• Leeks & Yellow Onion – 1 cup sautéed
• Chicken Meatballs – 2 cups diced (we used a cranberry jalapeno variety)
• Kale – 2 cups de-stemmed and chopped
• Brown rice – 1.5 cups cooked
• Chicken Broth – 32 oz
• Feta Cheese – 1 cup crumbled
• Herbes de Provence – 1 tablespoon
• Paprika, Salt, Pepper to taste
• Pita chips

Directions:

1. Once your leeks and onions have been sautéed together in olive oil, set them aside.
2. Pour your broth into a large pot, add the Herbes de Provence and bring to a simmer. Add the leeks, onions, and butternut squash and let simmer for 10
minutes.
3. Add the kale, meatballs, Paprika, Salt and Pepper to taste. Continue simmering for 5 minutes.
4. Add brown rice to the pot and remove from heat.
5. Serve your bowls hot, and sprinkle each with some feta cheese.
6. Add a few pita chips for a little crunchy garnish on the side.

Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

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Make Lasting Holiday Memories With These Photo Tips

Capturing those special family moments is always important – but especially so during the holidays! So, to help you get some new favorite photos of your family this season, I’m excited to share some tips from one of my favorite photographers – the totally amazing Amber Miller, of Amber Miller Photography!
 
  • Don’t rush children! Most kids are uneasy around strangers, especially strangers who are holding a large camera with a bright flash in their face, screaming “say cheese”. In my experience, the session goes much more smoothly if the child is comfortable and able to be themselves! I always ask children that I’m photographing what their favorite food is, who their favorite character is, their favorite song or tv show. For example, at a session last week I was having a hard time making a 2 year old laugh, I danced, made funny faces, used squeaky toys and nothing was working. I found out from mommy that he LOVES bread-sticks from the Olive Garden. All I had to do was say “bread-sticks” and he cracked up! I got some wonderful shots after that!
  • Be Patient! Children don’t want to be rushed or scolded into smiling. I understand that sometimes we as parents just want to get those memories and it’s frustrating when children don’t want to cooperate. A great thing for parents to do before a session is to offer a treat for good behavior and cooperation during their session. For example: “Bobby, if you listen to the nice lady and smile really big for your pictures, I will take you to get an ice cream when we’re finished.” That works beautifully!
  • Most important – GET PHOTOS TAKEN! Everyone has excuses about why they want to wait to get them done, whether it’s losing weight, or waiting for their hair to grow longer, etc…photos are such precious memories! Even if you aren’t 100% happy with the way you look, you should get them done just so your children have something to remember just how you looked at that stage in their life. Photos are precious memories, even when our loved ones are gone. Stop hesitating! Do it, you’ll be happy you did!
About: 
 
 
Meagan is a super-busy super-mommy working to balance her life as a Mom’preneur! She is Owner and Creative Director of Sunshine and Sippy Cups, but the real boss in her home is her chubby cheeked toddler daughter! You can find new “Busy Mom Solutions” posted to her site daily.

For up-to-date info on sales and other Totsy fun, follow us on Twitter (@totsyfan, @mytotsy) or Like us on Facebook (facebook.com/totsyfan).